Columbia’s b-boys and b-girls created quite a ruckus in Lerner Hall on Saturday night.
Raw Elementz presented “RAWcus,” a hip-hop showcase and break dancing competition, in Roone Arledge Auditorium in an attempt to reintroduce Columbia to the dance form. The dance crew is currently working to define what it means to be a part of contemporary hip-hop culture, both on campus and in New York City.
The dance crew organized the event as part of its effort to dispel stereotypes about hip-hop. “A lot of people might associate hip-hop with gangster rap, and black people and get the wrong idea,” said George Zhang, SEAS ’12, a Raw Elementz break dancer. Zhang personally views hip-hop not as a form of aggression, but as “a way to resolve confrontations.” The audience could see this emphasis on respect during RAWcus, as competitors greeted each other with handshakes and chest bumps.
Founded in 2001, Raw Elementz is a Columbia hip-hop fusion dance crew that combines styles such as groove and street jazz to produce its “own brand of hip-hop,” according to Lucy Xin, CC ’11, the organization’s president. Xin stresses that hip-hop is not simply a type of dance, “but also a lifestyle” that members try to fulfill.
The crew calls itself “Raw Elementz” because of its raw talent that is not the result of professional training. Therefore, the club welcomes students without formal dance experience but simultaneously strives to perform dances at an advanced skill level.
The group aspires to join the New York City hip-hop community by leaving campus more often to experience the dance scene and by performing their jams at charity events. “We have a performance on April 17 up in Harlem for an educational fund. We like to reach out to the community at large,” Xin said.
As the club members attempt to become a greater part of the city’s hip-hop scene, they have at times struggled to remain true to the club’s original commitment to “raw” performances. “We definitely had a bit of an identity crisis this semester actually,” Xin said. “We’re very much a student group. We don’t have professional roots. We do have aspirations to take the crew to the next skill level while still maintaining that same student group atmosphere.”
The club members hope that by striking a balance between amateur and professional, and by demonstrating the energy of hip-hop, other Columbia students may develop a new interest in the dance form and the club.
“We want it to become a campus institution like the Varsity Show,” Xin said. “One day we hope people will be like, ‘Hey, are you going to RAWcus?’”